Ditching the Vape Could Save Your Life
COPD is the abbreviation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Chronic means the disease is long-term. COPD causes damage to the air sacs in the lungs. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, COPD is most often caused by exposure to airway irritants. In the U.S., the most common cause is cigarette smoking, but in this article we take a look at COPD and vaping and how vaping can affect COPD.
What Are the Common Symptoms?
Normally, the air sacs are stretchy. COPD causes the air sacs to lose their elasticity. The airway walls also become thick and inflammation develops. In addition, increased mucus is produced.
The combination of factors above causes several COPD symptoms, including:
- Chest tightness
- Low blood oxygen levels
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
Unfortunately, COPD is currently not curable. The degree of symptoms varies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Although there is no cure for COPD, treatment can ease symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Continuing to smoke can further damage the lungs. But what about vaping?
What Is Vaping?
Vaping involves inhaling and exhaling aerosol that is produced by a vaping device. The device includes a battery, a cartridge for holding the e-liquid and a mouthpiece to inhale through.
Instead of smoke, the device produces vapor or aerosol. The vapor contains different levels of toxic chemicals. Some of the affects of these chemicals are still unknown. Researchers believe certain chemicals are associated with an increased risk of cancer and lung disease.
Facts About Vaping
When vaping was first introduced, it was marketed as a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, but that is not true. The chemicals in e-cigarettes are also thought to lead to the damage of airways and possibly increases the risk of cancer.
Additionally, e-cigarettes may contain varying amounts of nicotine. In fact, in some cases, they may have more nicotine than traditional cigarettes. For example, someone can buy extra-strength cartridges for vaping those have higher levels of nicotine.
It is also helpful to understand that in addition to nicotine, there are other chemicals that may be in vaping products. For instance, vaping products may contain toxic metal particles and chemicals and cancer-causing substances.
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Vaping also appears to attract younger people, including teens. Part of the attraction may be that many vaping products have flavors, such as bubble gum or fruit flavors.
According to the Federal Food And Drug Administration, in a one year period from 2017 to 2018, vaping among high school students increased by 78%. It is estimated that about 20% of high school students vaped at least once in a 30-day period.
The Damage Vaping Can Cause
The damage that vaping can do to teens is not known. One thing that is clear though is that it can lead to an addiction to nicotine and increase their risk of various lung problems, including COPD.
The American Lung Association also released information on the dangers of vaping, including a study that found two ingredients in e-cigarettes, including vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol that are toxic to the cells in the body. The full extent of their toxicity is still under investigation.
How Does Vaping Affect COPD?
Since the damaging effects of vaping are not entirely clear, the extent to which it contributes to COPD is not known. But some research indicates there is a link. For example, according to John Hopkins Medicine, researchers found that the chances of developing COPD if you vape could be six times higher than those who do not vape.
Also, it is theorized that vaping may lead to inflammation of the airways. The exact mechanism is still being researched. But research published in the journal Thorax indicated that exposure to e-cigarettes that contain nicotine fluids triggers effects on the lungs that are normally associated with COPD, including lung tissue damage and hyperreactive airways.
The American Lung Association also found that one of the chemicals in e-cigarettes is a herbicide used to kill weeds. It is believed that is may cause lung injury and possibly COPD.
How to Quit Smoking and Vaping
Stopping smoking is essential for people with COPD. Individuals who smoke cigarettes and have COPD should quit. Continuing to smoke may increase how fast COPD progresses. But vaping may be just as bad.
Vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking. The Food and Drug Administration has not found that e-cigarettes are not effective in helping people stop smoking.
Smoking of any kind is bad for people with COPD. If you smoke cigarettes, there are effective ways to quit, such as nicotine patches, medications and behavior modification programs. If you smoke and are trying to quit, do not turn to vaping.
If you are already vaping, it is also vital to quit. Consider the following tips to quit:
- Set a date to give up vaping and do your best to stick with it.
- Determine what your triggers are that make you reach for an e-cigarette. Try to avoid situations that trigger vaping.
- Find alternative ways to deal with withdrawals. Talk to your doctor about medications or strategies to help with withdrawal symptoms.
Whether it is traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, smoking of any kind has adverse effects for people with COPD.